If you’re a camper, chances are you have camped in the rain. In fact, many campers believe rain is just part of the adventure. But in 2010, this adventure turned deadly as a flash flood swept through Albert Pike Campground in Arkansas. Twenty people lost their lives. Over 200 campers rushed to safety. The Little Missouri west of Caddo Gap stood at 3 feet on that Thursday night and by the next morning had risen to over 23 feet. The flash flood occurred in the middle of the night, while the campers were sleeping.
The tragedy at Albert’s Pike opened our eyes to the dangers of flash floods while camping. As we move forward, we must find better ways to prepare ourselves for the possiblity of a flash flood.
What steps can you take to protect your family from a flash flood while camping?
Before You Leave Your House:
- Watch the weather forecast several days before your camping trip and immediately before your trip. If a flood watch is in effect or heavy rains/severe thunderstorms are predicted, post-pone your trip a couple days.
- Call the campgrounds. Ask about the campgrounds flooding history. Also, ask if they have cell phone reception (Cell Reception is a website that allows you to look up cell phone reception for certain areas ) and a radio tower nearby. You want to make sure that your weather radio will be able to pick up a signal.
- Find out the names of surrounding towns and counties. You will be able to use these as reference points when listening to the weather radio.
- Know the nearest hospital, urgent care and fire department.
- Remember to pack a battery-powered weather radio. Set the stations when you arrive at camp so you can monitor the weather.
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas.
At The Campgrounds:
- Choose a campsite on higher ground. Avoid camping in drainage areas such as by creeks, rivers or in narrow cannons.
- Have an Evacution Plan. Flood waters rise very quickly. Do not delay or try to pack everything back up. Just a 5 to 10 minute delay can be the difference between whether you are able to get to safety or not.
- When evacuating, do not drive across flooded roads or bridges. It is unsafe and you could be swept away in the water. If your car stalls in water, abandon the car and move quickly to higher ground.
My first camping memory is from Caddo Gap. I camped there as a little girl with my parents and maternal grandparents. We camped in a cabin and fished in the river.
I also have family and friends in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, which is where the majority of campers at Albert’s Pike lived. This tragedy hit way too close to home for me. This could have been my friends or family. And, I know that no matter how much you prepare, natural disasters can and will occur.
These are tips for camping preparation. I cannot guarantee that these tips will save your life in a natural disaster.
But, due to the events at Albert’s Pike, we must diligently try to find better ways to prepare and protect our families while camping. We owe that much to the campers who lost their lives in Arkansas. If you have suggestions, please leave them below. We can all learn from each other.
This post is dedicated to the families who lost loved ones at Albert’s Pike. My heart and prayers go out to you.